Giving lip service to something or someone doesn’t take much. Changing your behavior actually takes effort, but your heart doesn’t have to be in it. Sacrificing of yourself? That’s something you can’t really do without love.
Most Christians are familiar with the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10 who asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life. When Jesus tells him to sell all he has and follow Him, the man walks away sad, because he loves his stuff too much. Usually that’s the take home: Don’t love your stuff more than you love Jesus.
But dig a little deeper, and I think there’s something more we can take from this.
First, the ruler calls Jesus a “Good Teacher” (v17). He gives lip service to Jesus. But Jesus doesn’t just take the compliment, he presses past it.
Next, the ruler says of the Jewish laws, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When the lip service isn’t enough, he falls back on his behavior. But again, Jesus didn’t seem too impressed by how many laws this guy had kept.
Jesus presses deeper. (Not in an effort to embarrass the guy though, the Bible said “Jesus looked at him with love”). Jesus moves past his words, and past his behavior, to his heart. And it’s there where the ruler realizes where his own love lies. Despite his words and behavior following Jesus, his heart isn’t.
To me, this story isn’t about being rich. This story is about your heart. Not about the words you do or don’t say. Not about how loud you sing during praise and worship at church. Not about how many vices you have managed to avoid in your life. It’s about your heart.
Are you connected to Jesus? Is there a relationship there that you value more than the other things in your life? That’s what Jesus wants. That’s what God desires. I don’t mean to trivialize holiness when I say this (because I’m not), but I bet Jesus would rather you smoke a pack a day and let out a cuss word now and again if it meant being in true relationship with you. If despite those things, you gave of your time, talents, and resources to pursue Him with your heart.
I could be wrong, but I think he’d take that over the person who gives him lip service, obeys all the “laws”, but isn’t willing to sacrifice of them self to stay connected in true relationship to Him.
Lately I’ve really been trying to put myself in the position of the rich young ruler. Yes, lip service and obedience are good, but it’s not enough. To truly live by the Spirit, and to see that fruit come out of my life, I want to press deeper. I want to cultivate that relationship with Jesus, at the expense of anything in my life.
(I’ll even try to let you know how it’s going from time to time. If you’re willing to do the same, I’d love to hear about it. Either in the comments or by email, if you’d be open to sharing. Oh, and thanks for letting me share some of this stuff with you)